Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Some Luck" Review

About the book:

1920, Denby, Iowa:

Rosanna and Walter Langdon have just welcomed their firstborn son, Frank, into their family farm. He will be the oldest of five.
Each chapter in this extraordinary novel covers a single year, encompassing the sweep of history as the Langdons abide by time-honored values and pass them on to their children. With the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change through the early 1950s, we watch as the personal and the historical merge seamlessly: one moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis. Later still, a girl we’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own. 
The first volume of an epic trilogy from a beloved writer at the height of her powers, Some Luck starts us on a literary adventure through cycles of birth and death, passion and betrayal that will span a century in America.

Some Luck
by Jane Smiley
Publication date: October 7, 2014
Anchor Publishing
416 pages

About the author: Jane Smiley (born September 26, 1949) is an American novelist. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992 for her novel A Thousand Acres (1991). Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from Community School and from John Burroughs School. She obtained a BA in literature at Vassar College (1971), then earned an MA (1975), MFA (1976), and PhD (1978) from the University of Iowa. While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar. From 1981 to 1996 she was a Professor of English at Iowa State University, teaching undergraduate and graduate creative writing workshops, and continuing to teach there even after relocating to California.
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

My Take:

Some Luck was a selection for my book club for this year, and I was looking forward to reading a new-to-me author. I actually like family saga stories, and it had been a while since I had taken the opportunity to read one.

First of all, you can tell the author is very talented when it comes to the English language and with the structure of the writing. The structure and function of the words were well put together, and the descriptions of the land and the areas did put a fairly good picture in your mind.

But as a story it left something to be desired.

This novel almost seemed more like a diary or a family photo album/scrapbook rather than a novel.

<Showing the album> "Oh, this is the year that so-and-so got married." <Turn the page> "This is the year grandpa died." <Turn the page> "Remember when we lost all the wheat in that storm?" <Yawn>

It just never grabbed me and drew me in as a story. It was like I was looking in on the outside of some other family and just being told what happened to them. Even the "love" scenes or tender moments felt forced.

I also just didn't care about the characters at all. By the end I couldn't even keep up with who the characters were anymore. As the characters kept getting married and having children, it became impossible to remember them all - especially when a specific character hadn't been mentioned for several chapters.





I actually almost stopped reading this book when the little baby girl died. I just can't handle stuff like that in books, and that really almost made me put the book down for good. But since I said that I would review it, I kept going. I think I should have just stopped...





Overall, I just thought this book was depressing. I read for entertainment, and this just felt more like a documentary. I also find it hugely ironic that someone with the last name of Smiley wrote such a depressing book!

I will say that the tone of this book very much portrays what the book is about. If that was what the author was going for, then it was done very well. The book plods along much as a farmer plods along day to day while farming. I almost think that the author captures the humdrum life of an Iowa farmer a little too well.

To me this book just didn't seem to have a lot of depth. Even the characters we spend a lot of time with - Frank, Joey, Rosanna, Walter - I didn't really feel as if I truly knew them. And ultimately there is just no hope. There is no real love or family relationship. There is nothing to keep me reading the rest of this series.

I hate writing a mostly negative review for a book, but I just can't find much about this book that was redeeming or that I can recommend.

I apologize for doing this to a Pulitzer prize-winning author, but I have to do it. (Maybe I should try to read the book that actually won the prize...)

I will give Some Luck... only 1 BookWorm.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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